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francescahall
28th March 2023

Live review: Christine and the Queens transcends at BBC 6 Music Festival

Christine and the Queens invited his entranced audience into a secret haven of queer euphoria at Manchester’s O2 Victoria Warehouse
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Live review: Christine and the Queens transcends at BBC 6 Music Festival
Photo: Christine and the Queens @ BBC and Shirlaine Forrest

BBC Radio 6 Music brought its annual festival to Manchester this year, where it is set to remain for the foreseeable future. Headlining the Saturday night at O2 Victoria Warehouse was the incomparable Christine and the Queens, AKA Redcar, who released his latest album Redcar les adorables étoiles back in November.

Christine and the Queens’ musical career has been one of continual reinvention. His first album, Chaleur Humaine (2014) drew international acclaim, with standout single ‘Tilted’ becoming a widely loved alt-pop earworm. At this point, the artist still presented as a woman, and while his early work was undoubtedly intriguing in its left-field instrumentals and unique blend of French and English lyrics, it was just a taste of what was yet to come.

In 2018, Chris was unleashed upon the world: a sophomore album that proved career-altering. Here, Christine and the Queens took on a new form, embracing his masculinity and approaching each song with a newfound intent. His 2020 EP La vita nuova developed these traits even further, with its surreal accompanying video showcasing the extent and beauty of Chris’ artistic imagination.

2022’s Redcar les adorables étoiles marked a vital juncture in the artist’s path to self-discovery. It was during the run-up to the album’s release that Chris announced that he identified as a man, posting a TikTok video in which he explained in French that “I’ve been a man for a year now – a little more officially in my family and in my relationship. It is a long process.” The new album, therefore, is a deeply personal body of work that sees Chris grapple with complex questions of identity.

Lava La Rue kicked off Saturday evening, delivering a set that glided between pop-punk, indie, funk and dreampop. They strutted and stomped around the stage, dressed in a red jester-style jumpsuit and black platform boots, playing two brand new tracks and a punked-up cover of Angel Olsen‘s ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ before ending on one of their best-known songs, ‘Magpie’.

Then, after a brief introduction by 6 Music’s own Stuart Maconie and Cerys Matthews, Christine and the Queens appeared onstage in a black waistcoat and trousers, slinking around like a panther on the prowl. His first song was Redcar album opener ‘Ma bien aimeé bye bye’, a dark and sensual track on which Chris shifts seamlessly between languages. This was followed by ‘Les étoiles’, brooding eighties synths accompanying the artist as his crystal-clear vocals filled the venue.

Photo: Christine and the Queens @ BBC and Shirlaine Forrest

At the end of the second track came a spoken word section, the first of several scattered throughout the set. “I fell from the sky!”, he exclaimed. “My heart is red like your heart. It is deep, lonely, red like your heart … And that deep red, I call it Saint Claude … Dear lords of music, please take me there”.

The band led Chris into ‘Saint Claude’, a song that displays him at his most intimate and tender. This was followed by the brutally vulnerable ‘People I’ve Been Sad’, and for a moment the theatrics were forgotten, the lyrics punctuated with such emotion that it felt as if they were being ripped straight from his aching soul.

From the depths of despair, the artist ascended, launching defiantly into ‘La Chanson Du Chevalier’ [Knight’s Song] and then delivering another spoken word interlude: “When they asked me who I was I said, well I’m a knight. It’s just I lost my sword is all. I’m a knight without a sword. And they laughed, cos I guess they were just looking with their eyes. But nobody in the room was looking with their heart”.

Chris looked into the crowd with a knowing glint in his eye as the band began playing ‘iT’, the first song on Chaleur Humaine. It is one of his oldest songs, and yet it has taken on a profoundly new meaning in recent months. “I am a man now!” Chris sang triumphantly, posturing like a victorious boxer, “And there’s nothing you can do to make me change my mind / I’m a man now”.

The set pushed forwards, with ‘5 Dollars’ and ‘Tilted’ garnering a warm response from the audience (many of whom, no doubt, were unfamiliar with the more obscure album material). Never one to remain predictable, however, Christine and the Queens masterfully wove ‘Tilted’ together with Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ ‘Under the Bridge’, moving between the two so subtly that you almost thought you were imagining it.

“There is a sense of familiarity I feel, between you and me”, said Chris. “It’s like we met before in a previous life.” The stage became bathed in thick, orange light as the band slipped into the sultry ‘Combien De Temps’. As the song faded out, the artist beckoned to the audience to follow him into his musical wonderland, performing Michael Jackson-esque dance moves to the synth-laden ‘Goya Soda’ before falling to his knees in veneration of the guitarist.

The main set ended on the experimental ‘Track 10’, the instrumentals rising and rising in a crescendo of passion and finally reaching a thundering climax as Chris writhed and spun, his body seemingly possessed by an invisible higher being. The song drew to a close in a frenzy of drums and guitar and the stage went black, leaving the audience to sit with the enormity of what they had just witnessed.

Christine and the Queens soon returned for a two-song encore in which he debuted material from his upcoming album PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE, set for release on June 9. Enveloped in a large pair of angel wings, he performed ‘Lick The Light Out’ and ‘To Be Honest’, the crowd bathed in a haze of white light as they squinted at the celestial vision before them.

It was a truly transcendental moment; Chris appeared to leave the human realm behind to float amongst the clouds, inviting his entranced audience into a secret haven of queer euphoria before walking casually offstage as if nothing extraordinary had ever happened.

Saturday night was Christine and the Queens at full strength. The set was surreal and theatrical and yet, at its heart, deeply real: standing onstage in front of over 3000 people, he assumed his most honest form. As an artist that has always thrived on subverting people’s expectations, perhaps the one thing you can always expect from Chris is his unwavering faith in his own convictions.

 

You can watch the full set on BBC iPlayer here, and stream Redcar les adorables étoiles below:

Francesca Hall

Francesca Hall

Deputy Music Editor

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